Since the Mural Arts Program began in 1984 as a component of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, Jane Golden has been the driving force, overseeing its growth from a small city agency into the nation's largest mural program, a catalyst for positive social change and a model for replication across the country and around the globe. Golden, a young artist initially hired by former Mayor Wilson Goode to help combat the graffiti crisis plaguing the city, reached out to graffiti writers to help turn their destructive energies into creative ones. In the process, she recognized the raw artistic talent among the graffiti writers as she began to provide opportunities for them to channel their creative forces into mural-making. The murals themselves transformed city neighborhoods suffering from years of neglect and hardship.
In 1996, the Mural Arts Program was reorganized under the City of Philadelphia Department of Recreation and Golden was put in place as its director, at which time she established the Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates, a nonprofit organized to raise funds and provide support to the program. Under the direction of Golden, the Mural Arts Program has become a successful hybrid of a city agency and nonprofit organization, creating innovative works of public art in partnership with various community stakeholders, public schools, local nonprofits and city agencies, and educating over 20,000 underserved youth in its first 25 years. In that time, the Mural Arts Program has created more than 3,000 murals—including an extant collection of more than 1,500 that are an integral part of the civic landscape and a source of inspiration to the thousands of residents and visitors who encounter them each year, earning Philadelphia international recognition as the “City of Murals.”